Thursday, December 26, 2013

Trapped Antarctic ship to get help

A Chinese icebreaker is expected to reach a scientific mission ship trapped in dense pack ice off East Antarctica since Christmas Day.

The Snow Dragon icebreaker will try to cut a path through the ice so the research vessel Academic Shokalskiy can reach open waters.

The Russian vessel is being used by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. There are 74 people on board.

They are following the route explorer Douglas Mawson travelled a century ago.

The Chinese icebreaker may ask for assistance from two other boats - French vessel L'Astrolabe and Australia's Aurora Australis - which are also heading into the icy waters of the Southern Ocean.

The research ship is trapped by thick sheets of ice that were driven by strong winds about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart - the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania.

However, there are fears that blizzards could hamper the rescue effort.

The Shokalskiy is well stocked with food and is in no danger, according to the the science team led by Chris Turney and Chris Fogwill.

Although trapped for the moment, the scientists are continuing their experiments. They have been measuring temperature and salinity through cracks in the surrounding ice.

Science volunteer Sean Borkovic told the BBC: 'I'll always remember this, that's for sure. It's brilliant. We've got some lovely light and the weather's pretty mild considering. The ship looks solid. I think we'll be good.'

A visit from Secret Santa and a sumptuous Christmas dinner cranked up the celebratory mood.

The goal of the modern day Australasian Antarctic Expedition is to repeat many of the original measurements and studies of the Mawson expedition to see how facets of the environment have changed over the past century.